The Journey…

Everything on earth has its own time and its own season. Ecclesiastes 3:1 (CEV)

For Lent I decided to read a book that had been sitting by my bed for a while. It is ‘The Purpose Driven Life’ by Rick Warren. The strap line of which is ‘What on earth am I here for?’, well may I ask…
This takes the form of 40 days worth of guidance, ideas, scripture and reading. As a reader you are encouraged not to skip ahead and to focus on the subject matter for each day. So being 40 days it seemed ideal for Lent and as someone who is a self-confessed skipper-aheader, it is good for me to discipline myself not to do this but to stick to each days subject (ok so I may have given in just a few times…)

Yesterdays chapter might as well have been written just for me. It opens with this:

I am sure that God who began the good work within you will keep right on helping you grow in his grace until his task within you is finally finished, on that day when Jesus Christ returns. Philippians 1:6 (LB)

The whole chapter is about not rushing ahead, there are no short cuts to spiritual maturity. he uses a great example of how tomatoes lose their flavour when supermarkets try to ripen them too quickly and those that ripen naturally in the sun are so much more tasty. After all, God thinks in terms of eternity, not 3 score years and 10, he is concerned with how strong we grow, not how fast. This is something I really need to take on board. I am always in such a hurry.

These things I plan won’t happen right away. Slowly, steadily, surely the time approaches when the vision will be fulfilled. If it seems slow, do not despair, for these things will surely come to pass. Just be patient! They will not be overdue a single day. Habakkuk 2:3 (LB)

We have a lot to ‘unlearn’. Some of us come to Christ broken, with strongholds and problems that have taken years to develop. We can’t expect a quick fix to all of these. Although that said, there have been a few things that have been soooo easy to undo and unlearn now that I am walking with Christ, it’s like my eyes were opened to so many things that I didn’t even see were there.

You have begun to live the new life, in which you are being made new amnd are becoming like the one who made you. Colossians 3:10

I love how this chapter ends, which is particularly relevant to me when I think of who I was just 3 months ago…

‘ Remember how far you’ve come, not just how far you have to go. You are not where you want to be, but neither are you where you used to be.’

another one saved…

On Sunday night my friend asked me if she could share my testimony with a friend of hers and so I sent her this blog link. Then yesterday I got a text saying:

‘ my friend got saved today. wow wow God is good. God used your testimony as I shared it today.’

How AWESOME is that? Praise God that he could use my testimony to help someone else. I feel honoured. But of course all the glory is for him, our most amazing King of Kings. I went off to prayer group last night just buzzing!!
What an awesome day yesterday ( I notice how I say awesome a lot now – is that a Christian thing? although it sounds rather American it just is the perfect word for God and all that he is doing!)

So my prayer today is for more: More Lord, send more. More love, more salvation, more peace, more ‘coincidences’, more prayer, just more of You…

in love

I am soooo in love with Jesus this morning!! I feel so on fire that nothing is going to put me in a bad mood today. Had an awesome night at church last night and I feel like I’m moving onto the next level…

I knew that having had such a God filled today yesterday I would probably experience some kind of downer today but I woke up feeling awesome! So then I thought ok, well if the enemy is not getting at me, what is he going to do? Well I soon found out as all 3 kids were particularly trying this morning to say the least, so I’ve been praying all morning, in between heating up milk, mixing honey and cereal, finding a third choice of clothes for my 4 year old (who has a will of iron…) and so far so good… no shouting or feeling stressed! and they are all out of the house now for at least 5 hours, so I should be clear until then at least!

I also changed my facebook status last night when I got in, before I changed my mind! Nothing overt, just about my life changing, so those that want to can ask me about it. And within 2 mins of arriving at school this morning someone had asked, so I told her and had the courage to do so without feeling a bit embarrassed about it all! I feel like I could stand in the street and shout it out this morning so it wasn’t hard! Praise the Lord!

Praise the Lord.
Praise God in his sanctuary;
praise him in his mighty heavens.
Praise him for his acts of power;
praise him for his surpassing greatness.
Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet,
praise him with the harp and lyre,
praise him with tambourine and dancing,
praise him with the strings and flute,
praise him with the clash of cymbals,
praise him with resounding cymbals.
Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.
Praise the Lord.

(Psalm 150)

Whats in a name…?

Today’s post is inspired by our service this morning. We had been asked the previous week to think about what Jesus is to us, and this morning we wrote those words onto big canvases. The idea came from Jesus saying to Peter in Mathew 16: 15-16:
“But what about you?” He asked, “who do you say I am?”
Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

So we were asked to think about different terms for Jesus and what he means to us. If He asked us, what would our answer be?

Inspired by this, I did a bit of research this week into the different names for Jesus, in the bible specifically. I was actually quite amazed at how many there were! Most I had heard before but just hadn’t really registered,eg:
Lion of Judah; Lamb of God; The Good Shepherd; The Way, The Truth, The Life; The True Vine….

I love ‘Bright & morning Star’ from Revelation 22:16

“…I am the Root and the offspring of David, and the bright morning star.”

What a lovely idea – to think of him as the Bright Morning star.

and for me:
‘Rabonni’ (teacher) which is very relevant to me at the mo as I am just learning from him all the time.(John 20:16)

Actually I found on Wikipedia a great list which I’m sure isnt totally comprehensive but had many. Now I know wikipedia isn’t always 100% accurate, but I did check quite a few and they were right!

It really made me think about how we individually think of the Lord – although as Christians we worship the same Lord, we all think of him in different ways, or find different ways of coming to him. For some it’s as a Father, or even a Mother, others like me, as a teacher, and it made me think about how everyone’s faith is different. We all worship in different ways and have different ways of coming to him, feeling closer to him, ways of praying, but we are united in our love of Christ.

If only we could all remember that sometimes…

traditional vs modern, part 1.

hmmm, now how to address this without putting peoples noses out of joint. Well firstly, sorry if I do and hey it’s just my opinion. But lots of things have happened recently, relevant to me, about different types of worship format. So I am going to write about it. I have had lots of conversations with people about this and I think I just need to get a few things straight in my head and get them off my chest. So here follows a few posts on the subject (maybe more if I really get going…). Feel free to ignore, I think this is largely for my own benefit! But I really would welcome any comments…

So… I have attended village churches throughout my life, for most of my 36 years. All fairly traditional, lots of liturgy, hymns, you know the standard kind of thing. However in all that time I never felt like I had any real faith, so my view is a bit clouded to say the least. I feel like I only ever got half the picture and partly this is down to the church. The traditional CofE approach seems to gloss over so much, but particularly Satan and spiritual warfare. Someone recently suggested to me that maybe they were talking about this stuff, but that I just wasn’t open to it, so maybe I didn’t really hear it. Of course this is possible, I mean I talk about my eyes being opened, so why not my ears too? However I still doubt this!

So my issue is not with the traditional approach per se (althought it is not for me right now), it is that they don’t give the full picture. You tend to get a nicey-nicey view of Christianity, baby Jesus in the crib, isn’t it lovely, sort of view. (I know this is a sweeping generalisation…) And how can you have a real view of Christianity or faith without having the whole picture?

(Incidentally, I am deliberately not going to mention any names of churches. This is my view and I do not wish to be openly negative about anywhere in particular. Equally I do keep my blog relatively anonymous, although not entirely and a little digging would give any answers that might arise, but I do prefer it that way – not that I am being particularly contraversial but I don’t want to feel I should temper what I write. I do not actively invite people to my blog, if they find it they are totally welcome, but only a couple of people that actually know me read it regularly and one of those is my husband…!)In my opinion parish churches also seem to perpetuate the myth that it’s ok to just go along on a Sunday morning every once in a while and just forget about God for the rest of the week… I mean for 20 years I went to a parish church, not really believing and certainly not living my life for Christ. I look at people from my old church who I once thought were totally committed to their faith and now I wonder, well are they? Not that I am judging them, but it’s just that now I really know what real faith feels like, that it is changing my whole life, then I realise that others who I knew, maybe aren’t living their life completely for Christ. So then I wonder about the congregations of other parish churches. From my own experience, there are lots of people in parish churches who attend for many reasons other than a committed faith. Maybe out of tradition, or duty, or for their children or a host of other reasons. Again I am not judging these people, I was one for 20 years! So then I think, well if I can attend a parish church for 20 years and really not believe at all, then how could that happen? how could the church let that happen? I am not bitter about it by the way, I know that I needed to go through a lot of rubbish to be in the place where I was ready to hear God eventually, but surely that must say something about what is missing in our churches?

For me it is about having the whole picture; its about listening to people who are TOTALLY committed to Christ and actively show that in their every day lives (and I don’t just mean the Vicar)…

When people ask us why we are going to our church rather than any other I say, because it is child friendly and in fact more than that – the kids are actively encouraged to be part of the service; it has decent, modern worship music, that actually makes you feel that you are worshipping God; the preaching is totally relevant to todays world; and those that attend are, generally speaking, actively living the Christian life rather than just going along out of habit. I actually WANT to go to my church on a Sunday, I don’t feel that I have to or should go out of some kind of duty. I do not drift off during sermons, I do not use prayer time as an excuse for 40 winks or to plan the weekly shop and neither do I use the post-communion time for a chat with my neighbour. Yes, these are all things I used to do at my old church. So that makes me wonder, is this about ‘the church’ or my faith? With my new found faith, could I regularly attend a traditional church and feel differently about it. Well of course, the answer is yes I could, but I don’t want to, because my current church is feeding my faith. If I didn’t have regular contact with the kind of people at my new church then I am sure my faith would suffer. I would like to say that of course it wouldn’t, it’s about what’s in my heart. which is also true, but sharing with other believers who really ‘get it’ is so beneficial to my faith that I do not want to do without it. So then, is it about my faith? I now believe so fervently and with such a hunger to know more, that I have never had before. I look at people from my old church who I once thought were totally committed and now I wonder, well are they? Not that I am judging them, but it’s just that now I really know what real faith feels like, that it is changing my whole life, then I realise that others who I knew, maybe aren’t living their life completely for Christ.

I know it must be very difficult for the Parish Priest, he (or she) has to cater for his whole parish. He can’t say, well if you don’t like it, sod off… (ok some might do!). Generally speaking they have to cater for: young people, children, families, OAPS, and so many more, usually all in one service, in most churches the most attended is the mid Sunday morning church – locally it’s 9.30 or 9.45. So how can one possibly appeal to all those people in one service? I have only ever been to 2 churches that do this well, but admittedly probably do alienate a few people along the way.
Obviously a plant church doesnt have that need put upon it, they can say to people, come along and see if you like it, if not, that’s fine, it’s not for everybody. But then in this day and age when most of us have access to a car, should the parish church still have to cater for its parish? Most parish churches, except in very rural areas, have at least 3 services on a Sunday, all with the usual traditional liturgy, catering for a very similar audience at each service. SO…. could one of these services be a bit different? to maybe appeal to a wider audience?

I am NOT completely anti the traditional. Approach to worship is a very individual thing, I do realise that. My Dad for example would not in a million years chose to come to our church regularly. BUT there are a lot of people out there who are travelling a long way to go to church on Sunday morning rather than a quick walk or short drive to their parish one, that must say something right?

A friend of mine came ot our church today for the first time and in a email to me tonight she wrote the following:

‘I think it’s an awful pity in a way that the C of E is struggling so much, and yet it would appear to me (based on my very wide sample of one!) that Christianity is most definitely out there, and that modern people do believe – they just don’t want the old fashioned way of doing it. Most vicars would give their right arms for a fraction of the congregation there today. Says something, doesn’t it!’

what to tell the friends…

So this week, I have been wondering about my friends and family. Some people say that when you get saved everyone will notice there is something different about you. I know that I have changed beyond all recognition but have my friends? Other than those few who I have told (and they are all Christians or sympathetic to it) I haven’t really had the guts to tell all. Funny because when all this first happened I just wanted to shout it from the roof tops – like ‘hey, guess what world? I found Jesus!’ (or rather he found me…). Now as I sink into this new path and this new life, and become comfortable with it, I am no less excited but I think ‘have any of them noticed yet?’ and if so why aren’t they asking me? I long to be asked and to tell them everything!

Today I went to have coffee with a Christian friend who told me she thought I had changed! – the first one to notice. She picked up on that fact that I am not swearing any more (and I did a lot before…) and the not drinking too (both my hubby and I have gone right off it, and saved a fortune in Tesco bills in the process! Not that we were alchies, but we do, or did have a penchant for red wine… ) and she said that when I talk I sound really different! It was so nice to hear.

I know my 14 year old was struggling a bit with this same issue a few weeks back and I told her that she didn’t need to go to school wearing a T-shirt saying ‘I heart Jesus’, but actually I wonder now if that would be easier! I have considered just putting it on my Facebook status, something like: ‘Joe Bloggs is well and truly smitten with Jesus…’ at least then I wouldn’t be constantly wondering whether they know or have noticed anything different. Not that I mind what they think actually… ok, so what would be the best Facebook status I could use? ‘Joe Bloggs has God in her life?’ ‘Joe Bloggs is born again?’ ‘Joe Bloggs has given her life to Christ?’ ‘Joe Bloggs has become a full on, all singing, all dancing, happy clappy, Jesus Freak?’ answers on a postcard please…

As part of all this I am re-evaluating everything, not because I need to, but because I want to and sometimes because I just have to – there are things that have gone immediately – like yoga – I did that for 10 years, but it’s gone now… There are so may things I used to do that I know feel unsure about it, or really negative about and it’s hard to know how to deal with them without either offending people or looking like a real oddball. When I stopped going to yoga I wrote a letter to my teacher as I have known her for a long time and the classes were really small and in her home, so I got to know her quite well. So I wrote to her and explained why I felt I couldn’t come anymore. It was very respectful of her beliefs and I told her how much I had enjoyed the classes in the past. It was not judgemental or condemning, just an explanation. And she didn’t even bother to reply. Although I tell myself this is not a big deal I did feel a bit hurt by this – I mean even if she didn’t understand she could have just said, ‘ok, nice knowing you’. So I guess because of this my judgement towards telling people is slightly clouded.

However… yesterday at work a colleague came in who I hadn’t seen for a while and she asked how I was doing and how the business was and I beat around the bush for a bit before just saying, look it might sound odd, but actually….. and so filled her in on what’s been going on. I felt like I should be honest with her and I know it was right because it turns out she is a Christian too and used to go to my church. I got the impression she was struggling with it a bit at the mo as she hasn’t found a new church and because her husband is not a believer, so who knows maybe I can be some support to her…

So with that in mind from now on I am going to try and be more open about it all. Ok so I’m not going to stand at the end of the road with a loud-haler but I won’t avoid ths issue either…

Guard my life and rescue me; let me not be put to shame, for I take refuge in you. May integrity and uprightness protect me, because my hope is in you. Psalms 25:21

a very short rant…

I have to admit that this week I am struggling to find God time – well I’m struggling to find as much as I would like anyway. Too much on at work… so no huge post today, but just a few rambled thoughts:
Today I heard on the radio that some young men who get their girlfriends (or just girls) pregnant, are complaining about the lack of rights they have over the pregnancy. If the girl choses to abort they complain, if she choses to have it they complain… Do any of these young guys actually think about the unborn child? or whether they are going to be the one who carries it for 9 months, gives birth and then brings it up? I won’t start a rant, I’m too tired, but it did make me cross.
Last week I read a post from Lesley about current advice for teenagers about sex, which pretty much seems to be encouraging it. (do read Lesleys post, click here, it is very interesting.) Who writes this rubbish? I mean are there not enough teenage pregnancies in this country already? are there not enough ‘kids’ bringing up children when they are only children themselves? I am appalled that my teenage daughter could get this kind of education at school without me knowing it (thankfully for me, its only ‘up north’ at the mo, although thats little comfort to those parents of teenagers in Sheffield).
If you’ve read my testimony you’ll know I did get PG at 21, single, and chose to have the baby. So I know how bloomin’ hard it is being a single mother with no money. And I at least had support from my family and had at least finished my school education.
Frankly I think a bit more of the ‘keep it in your trousers’ approach would go a long way.

a new love…

Following on from yesterday about the weekend I have just been on, I have found a new love, that of scripture. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy reading it before – I did, but suddenly I find I am so much more interested, particularly in the words themselves – there are some really beautiful phrases and words that I have found. The right phrase can be a real comforter, an inspiration, a healer, there is something for every situation.

Our speaker for the weekend, Cindy Riches, really focussed on how important it is to know your scriptures – she gave a great example of Satan confusing Eve in the garden of Eden by twisting Gods words slightly. We need to know them to know the truth and distinguish the lies. I have started sticking scriptures around the house, just to remind me on a daily basis and hopefully I will remember them too. I have always had a terrible memory for words. I can read a book and someone can ask me about it the following week and I will have forgotten already what happened in the plot! A friend of mine says I shouldn’t keep repeatng this – that you can speak things into your life, so I need to say ‘I can remember them!’. So now I am making an effort!

On arrival in our rooms at the weekend each of us had a note from the girls who organised it, with some words and bible references. Mine was perfect for me. One reference was in Deuteronmy 32. So I read the chapter and I found this:

Let my teaching fall like rain and my words descend like dew, like showers on new grass, like abundant rain on tender plants. Deut 32:2

Isn’t that just lovely? I love that – thinking of myself as a tender plant, just eager to soak up the Word.

On Sunday night a friend was over and he had a phrase in his head about Peter the rock, and while we were all looking through our bibles for another reference we had been talking about, I just kept getting rock references. It was so funny, like every page I turned to another rock reference would jump out at me. I’m sure the Lord was just reminding us all that he is our rock, on which we stand.

To you I call, O Lord, my rock… Psalm 28:1

The Lord is my rock, my fortress and me deliverer… Psalm 18:2

I am so excited about reading the Word now and finding new phrases like this. It is so uplifting!
So I leave you with one more for the day:

Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones. Proverbs 16:24

lies, filthy, lies….

This weekend I went away for a ‘womens weekend away’ with my church. I have never done anything like this before and I had no idea what to expect, but I felt I should go and needed to step out of my comfort zone! We didn’t go far, for me it was just a few miles down the road, to a lovely manor house in the middle of the woods. Actually it wouldn’t have mattered where we were, just having the time to really focus on God and our faith, together, was wonderful.
We also had the absolutely lovely Cindy Riches (from The Sycamore Commission) speaking to us. If you don’t know about ‘Living Free’ have a look at their site. Cindy and her husband developed this as a course, focussing on releasing strongholds in your life, and freeing you to live the life God intended for you. My husband is currently doing this course through church, and I have been reading the book – and it is amazing. So many things have come up in my life that I realised I had just accepted, when I could deal with them and let then go – very freeing!
Anyway, so the weekend was great. I was challenged, have spent time with God, had some great worship time, made lots of new friends and we have shared testimonies, truths and worries. I did at times feel a bit overwhelmed by the amount of information I took in, as so much of this is so new to me, but I know I have plenty of time to digest that, and I look forward to going back over the notes I made and the sheets we were given. In fact I’m going to spend this week going over it and will be blogging about various aspects of it that have touched me.
So, today I am looking at the enemy and his lies. I have heard it said a lot recently that the Devil is a liar and we need to stop listening to his lies. But this weekend it was really hammered home. Our verse for the weekend was
John 10:10:
‘The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.’
Cindy really got this across. That the Devil is a very real enemy that is present in this world around us:
1 Peter 5:8:
‘… Your enemy the Devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour…’
As she put it, ‘he is the master deciever, the best liar ever’. He hates God and so he hates us – we were made in Gods image – and so he will he will do anything he can to keep us from God and our faith. Although he’s clever, (after all he got to 1/3 of Gods angels in heaven) he is often predictable. He uses the same tactics again and again. Obviously this weekend we focussed on lies that he uses on women a lot, eg:
‘you’re fat, ugly, a terrible mother, you are worthless’ and so on. We need to see these for what they are: LIES! We are Gods masteripeces, and he sees us with no faults. (Ephesians 2:10/ Colossians 1:22)
This week I’ve been dealing with the issue with my mother and I realised this weekend that it all stems from the fact that I believe she doesn’t love me. What a load of rubbish! She’s my mum, of course she loves me… this is a LIE he has been feeding me for years and I have listened and taken it on board and believed it, and I realised I had even taken this a step further in thinking my daughter wouldn’t love me. Well, NO MORE!!!
God gave us the power to deal with the enemy and we need to realise we can use it:
Luke 10:19:
‘I have given you the authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome the power of the enemy: nothing will harm you’.
James 4:7:
‘Submit yourselves, then to God. Resist the Devil, and he will flee from you’
Now, that’s awesome – he won’t just leave you alone – he will FLEE from you!
We have the authority, through Christ, to send the enemy away, to close our ears to the lies and to recognise it as the Devil. Isn’t that amazing? I feel so free having realised that, that if I get a negative thought about myself, or the odd doubt or I am feeling unloved, I know it is from the enemy, and I can state that I am not going to listen to those lies any more and that I can command him to leave me alone. I know it won’t always be that easy, don’t get me wrong,I am sure there are times when I will fall into his traps and be ‘under attack’. But I know now that I have the tools to deal with it.
I think I mentioned in my testimony that we used to go to a traditional church and a lot of terms and things that are openly talked about in my new church are things I have not heard before. I think it is so important that we don’t just sweep this stuff under the carpet. You can’t look around at the world today and not see the Devil at work: wars, terrorism, hatred, increasing gun and knife crime… there’s a real and present force of evil, and we need to know we can deal with it and how to deal with it.
After all:
Romans 8:31:
‘…If God is for us, who can be against us?’

Purpose

I have been wondering a lot recently about Gods purpose for me, and it has been hard. Being a newbie to all of this I have been re-evaluating my entire life (necessary of course :) ) and one of the hardest things is not having enough time to devote to God, reading the Word and praying. My husband keeps telling me that God needs people everywhere and in every role and maybe I am where He wants me right now. I just have this nagging feeling that I will be called somewhere else, somewhere totally different and it is clouding everything.
Anyway, I have begun to realise how He is moving in my life, in small ways without me really knowing it. Like this week as I blogged about on wednesday. Another really cool thing that has been happening is that I have been developing a relationship with my Grandmother. When I first gave my life to the Lord it came up that there were 3 issues in my life I needed to deal with (3 women actually!). One of these is my Nan.
My Nan is 93 and lives in a care home. She is not enjoying this. My own feeling is that she is just waiting to die. She spends much of her life phoning my poor mum moaning about what is wrong there, sometimes she phones 5 times in one day. I have felt bad about not seeing her regularly as it’s only 4 miles down the road. But the last time I went in (until recently) she pretty much ignored me and her great grandchildren who I had taken in to see her. So I thought ok, well if she doesn’t want to see me I won’t bother.
Anyway, I felt this call from God to go and see her, so I suggested it to my mum who was actually quite negative and said oh, no dont, she will just moan at you etc etc, but as i felt called to do this I persevered.
So, now I have been going in to see her once a week since January and it has been awesome :) The first week there she said she would pray for me, the next week she asked about my church and she has told me lots of stuff about her past that I think she needed to get off her chest.
Then last week, she just said to me, ‘I don’t think I’m being a very good Christian, have you got any advice for me?’ well, wow! I wasn’t sure how to even start, without criticising her, so I just said she should pray about it more and I would look up some scriptures that might be helpful. and then I prayed with her – which was so awesome, and I knew the Lord was guiding me. Of course when I got home I thought of all the things I could have said to her! So I wrote her a letter. I was a bit worried about this, as I was quite honest with her, but in a caring way and I suggested some scriptures to look up and told her I would pray for her.
So, last night my Dad was here and we were talking about her and he said he thought my going to visit was making a big difference, that she wasn’t calling up so much and she was really chuffed with my letter. That made me feel so great and I thank the Lord for all he is doing! He is moving in both of our lives and I know that this is something he has led me to do, and it it making a real difference to my Nans life. I am so excited for her and to know that she is drawing closer to the Lord.
I am off to visit her shortly and I’m really excited to see what she will ask me today!
First, though, I have to make loads of cakes as I am on cake duty at church this weekend for the first time and by chance it is the one weeknd when I am away! So I am praying for my husband to remember to take them along on Sunday morning! And I will be back on Monday….
The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me. Psalms 138:8